4 Box Jump Styles for Athletes and Average Joes

by HAC Personal Trainer, Garrett Copeland

The box jump is a fundamental exercise for both overall fitness and athletic performance. On a general fitness level, you use multiple muscle groups in a high impact movement, which increases the calories you burn when you perform them. From a sports performance perspective, the box jump works to improve a skill used in the majority of sports. Even in sports where jumping is not prevalent, the box jump can increase hip movement explosion, giving the athlete more power in linear and lateral movements.

Reps and sets for these exercises are going to entirely depend on your reasoning for performing box jumps. If your intent is to use them for fitness then they can be done for 8-12 reps at a height that is a slight challenge for you. They can also be performed consecutively for 30-60 second intervals. In this case, you will want to select a comfortable jumping height. The most cardiovascular benefits of box jumps come when a minimum of 3 sets are completed, but depending on your goals, you may consider completing anywhere between 2-4 sets.

For athletic performance, sets should consist of a lower number of reps done at higher heights. Ideally, athletes should complete 2-4 sets of 1-6 reps. Keeping rep numbers low will allow you to push how high you can jump each time.

1. Standard Box Jump

To complete a standard box jump, stand facing an elevated platform or box. From this position, bend your knees and bring your arms back. As you begin to jump, bring your arms forward to help increase power – this is especially important to increase sports performance. When landing on the box, you want to bend your knees and land in a squat position as softly as possible to prevent injury to your knees. 

2. Single-Leg Box Jump

The single-leg box jump begins with a similar starting position to the standard box jump but balancing on one leg rather than two. Start with both hands above your head and the raised knee flexed at 90 degrees. From there,  begin to bring the raised leg down and back behind you without allowing it to touch the ground. Bring the arms down and back in this same motion. The leg you are jumping with will have a slight bend as you bring the raised knee back. As you begin your jump, you will drive the raised knee and arms up to increase your upward momentum. Landing can be done in two ways based on comfort level and what your goals are. Standard practice is to land on both feet exactly like the standard box jump. In some cases, especially for sports performance, it’s ideal to have the athlete land on just the jumping leg, but this landing style has benefits and drawbacks. While this can strengthen the tendons and muscles groups involved in landing, there is an increased risk for injury if not done correctly. This landing style is not advised for those new to the exercise without guidance from a trainer or coach.

2. Quarter-Turn Box Jump

One of my personal favorite variations is the quarter turn or the 90 degree box jump. Start by standing next to the box with body turned 90-degrees left or right away from the face of the box. The loading and prep are exactly the same as the standard box jump, but as you perform the jump, rotate 90 degrees to face and land on the box. This increases the usage of the glutes, core, and hip muscles. The landing is the same, ending in a squat position with knees bent and as softly as possible. Reps can be done consecutively on one side and then the other or in alternating directions so long as an equal number of reps are performed on both sides.

4. Depth Jump

The next box jump variation is geared towards athletic performance, but can be done for overall fitness as well. The depth jump or drop jump has a starting position on top of a box or step around 18 inches high. Standing on top of the box, step off the box. Touch down to the ground with both feet, landing in a jumping position with knees slightly bent and hands back behind you. From there, immediately jump as high as you can. You will then land softly in a slight squat position.

A more advanced version of the depth jump combines it with a standard box jump, where instead of jumping straight up after the drop-off, you go directly into a box jump. Everyone is a little different, so my advice would be to take a couple of practice jumps at a shorter height, especially if you’re new to exercise, to make sure you are not too far or too close to the boxes you will be jumping on. 

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